Everything has to be done with passion! And this is really the essence and what actually characterizes Eugenia Chandris and her own passion project, “A Magic Cabinet”: an online platform that combines magic journeys in Greece, through editorial storytelling and e-shopping of exquisite craftsmanship products; one of a kind beauty and fashion products, home decoration and even a range of pet accessories! All exquisitely hand-picked, tried, smelled (yes, smelled!) and tested by Mrs Chandris, who has skillfully given a new dimension to her mother’s magic cabinet. I met her one afternoon for the interview and was smitten not only by her sophisticated aesthetics, but also by her incredible ability to create pictures, fantasy worlds and transfer you throughout Greece and back to her childhood summers through her words. She truly has a superb way of eloquently narrating her stories, her passions and her “A Magic Cabinet”…
My Mother was from Syros, where the original Magic Cabinet is now. I put it back in the room where she was born, because I think it has a tremendous significance and it brings the cycle to its full extent. During my childhood, the Magic Cabinet was in Chios, though. And the whole idea of creating this online platform came to me from that memory of my mother’s and father’s bedroom, which was full of afternoon sunlight and had this very beautifully painted cabinet! My mother would store there all sort of things she bought in Piccadilly, at Fortnum & Mason, and in Florence, such as soaps in the shape of lemons, glass bottles full of amber bath oil, little bottles of aromatherapy oils, embossed notepapers, notepads, little pencils and pens, together with an outdated first-aid kit and other things, like sea-shells from previous summers.
There were some things that stayed in the Magic Cabinet all year through and then, there were other things that my mother would add every summer. The first thing I remember is the cabinet’s fragrance, as in the summer, the room was getting warm and when the cabinet opened, the space was filled up with aromas. Smell is an olfactory memory, as I call it, and because I try all the products myself, I don’t put anything that I haven’t tasted numerous times, or smelled or used. For instance, this new range of products “Nature Theories” is a Greek brand, with unbelievable smells, such as in coffee scrub, coffee with fig essence! I also love Apivita’s aromatherapy oils that I burn every morning at home – it’s a ritual – my favorite ones being rose, geranium, mint, rosemary and eucalyptus. When asked what the criteria for the selection of the products is, I say I would never put something on the site if I didn’t want it for myself!
My mother was the key to creating “A Magic Cabinet”. We had a country house in England, where I grew up, in Surrey, and we used to go back to London on Sunday night. My mother would come back with baskets of flowers that she would then, arrange in vases all around the house. For dinner parties, she would put chocolates in silver bowls, little vases in the middle of the table and some silver decorative pheasants. So, my love for vases and flowers and art de la table is all part of that visual and memory of arranging things and a certain way of doing this. It was all those things, all those images that stayed with me. I’m hoping to add more things to the “A Magic Cabinet” home section, concerning table and home decoration…
“A Magic Cabinet” is a very emotional experience for me to write about and remember my mother, as well as share the sense of taste that my mother “instilled” to me. Because it’s all really about what I find attractive; it’s about my vision of what I find pleasing, which I hope other people will find, as well. It also has to do with things that make you feel comforted and well. It’s all about synergies with people, with whom we have a common way of looking at things, we have a shared passion for creating and I might not be a creator, neither a designer nor a chemist, soap-maker or honey producer, but I’m certainly the person who wants to put that all together.
Greek Products and Brands
“A Magic Cabinet” is endless. One of the most interesting things about it is that it has no limits. What I have tried to do that is different is a site about Greece; it’s about how beautiful Greece is, how rich it is, not only in its history, but also in its present day richness and creativity, as well as the variety of its landscapes and climate. On “A Magic Cabinet”, you can voyage within Greece and one can say that we feature the best of Greece in our eight, for the moment, categories.
Among other things, we feature silk scarves from small producers, as well as products of other small producers, who don’t have an e-shop and through the “A Magic Cabinet” they get their story told. We have a collaboration with Callista, one of the very good friends of mine and whose handbags I admire so much. We are also branching out in the field of tea, made exclusively for the “A Magic Cabinet”. I have a special weakness for all my products, but food is really important, because in Greece, when you say Greek products and you google it, what you get is Greek foods!
Sustainability and Supporting a Cause
For me, packaging is also very important and has to be beautiful. Our packaging is not with paper. It is sustainable packaging and we package everything in a scarf, in cotton printed scarves that come in different sizes, depending on the products you buy. They are made in a factory, in Psyri, called Soffa, which supports sexually abused women. We always try to be meaningful and support a good cause. A lot of the producers featured give a portion of their earnings to good causes, as well.
And we will continue to find other sustainable sources of packaging in the future. We are trying to use fabrics made for a good cause and not use paper. Our products are wrapped in a way reminiscent of the “disaki”, continuing Greek tradition.
A Magic Storytelling
The “A Magic Cabinet” is both an editorial platform and an e-commerce shop. The contributing editors featured in it was an idea that I had right from the beginning; we invite people who have a voice, who are well known or have some influence to write.
Most of these people are friends: Arianna Huffington, Celia Critharioti, Niki Koutsiana but also others, whom I don’t know personally, like Sotiris Kontizas, the Chef of Nolan and who have now become friends. There is no rule, we do what we feel will best promote Greece on many many levels.
The reason why the products come with an editorial section is that the product will speak for itself, but it will speak for itself more eloquently if you read the prose that accompany it. I guess the internet is supposed to make our lives easier, as well as online shopping. Marble products, handbags, scarves… I try to describe the products as if you were touching them, as if you were smelling them, as if you were eating them…. So, you have to trust me that the “journey” will bring you the product you expect. It’s rather a question of trust on the internet, you have to provide something and describe it the best way you can, both aesthetically and emotionally.
It’s a journey of the senses and it’s a journey in Greece. I like to be “all encompassing”, I would like to include books and – why not – expand into travel! Our next adventure with the “A Magic Cabinet” will be to go into bespoke and include products specially made for the client, mostly into the jewelry and leather handbags sections.
People often ask out if it is Greek and I say it is 90% percent Greek, because Greece needs promotion support. Throughout the platform though, one will find a few departures from Greek brands, products and stories, but there will always be something magical about them, because the word magic gives that little bit of imagination. And I think that imagination and inspiration are very important in life and there is not enough of those around. We all get consumed by deadlines and stress, and “A Magic Cabinet” is a little bit of an escape… a little escape, a visual feast!
Photo Credit: Anna Tagkalou @annatagk